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Friday, September 21, 2012

Charlotte City Council, um, Budgeting and Planning?

Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer published this today after Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx made a preemptive offer to the Charlotte Panthers NFL to give away more tax money to fund fancy upgrades to benefit owners of the privately-owned stadium.  

Many on City Council have also indicated they are considering it. 

Kevin Siers from the Charlotte Observer 9/21/12

At a time when Charlotte is under the heaviest tax burden in the state, our elected leaders are salivating to fork over more of our money, with big talk about a Superbowl future as well, while also putting off important safety and education projects for lack of funding.

Council already voted to spend millions to buy the closed-down Eastland Mall.  They said it was for purposes of consolidating the property so it could be redeveloped as a whole, but now Councilman Patrick Cannon told WSOCTV "he'd like to see multiple buyers, thinking it could become something like the Ayrsley area, with homes and businesses."   It is not a comparable site.  This is not the plan City Council said they were promoting, whether it would be more or less successful than the movie studio plan that was promoted.

Beth Pickering seems to be volunteering more money up front as well, making these comments to the Observer:  "Pickering said she’s open to the city taking a greater financial role in the project, in possibly paying for the mall’s demolition. 'The devil is in the details but I’m open to that.' ”

Read more here:

When will voters demand responsibility and make a change?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cook Books and CMPD Grant Money


It seems to be a pattern with questions about money—especially grant money—involving police department oversight:  Ask what happened to the money and get stonewalled. 

In this case, the questions are about $339,765 that was awarded in a grant to Mecklenburg County for a controversial program to train gang members with culinary skills.  

The grant award was for the NC Dept. of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP) for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Gang of One Program, the Greenville Center Culinary Arts Program.  See the link for full details.  
In part it explains:
There are two CMPD Gang of One programs that the County assists: the Gang Re-Entry and Intervention Team; and the Greenville Center Culinary Arts Program.  This grant award is for the latter.  The purpose of the Greenville Center Culinary Arts Program is to assume the operation and maintenance of the center and up-fit the kitchen to support a culinary program for gang -involved juveniles.  The intent is not only to encourage the juveniles to pursue a career in the culinary industry but to prepare individuals with job readiness skills for future employment generally.  The program also provides a safe environment for learning and a foundation for a productive and fulfilling life.  


Media reports and government officials confirmed that $255,457 had already been spent against the grant by early Spring of 2011 on things like a center coordinator, transportation, and job trainers.  The problem was, the Greenville Center had not opened at all yet.  And the Culinary Program had definitely not begun, since bids were not even complete for renovations until March of 2012. 

Who were they driving around?  Who was getting paid to do the driving?

Who was coordinating and what were they coordinating?

The final bid for kitchen renovations came in mid-March 2012 for $74,522 but final spending has not yet been confirmed.  The work was finished just shy of the grant ending date in June and only three classes were held.  None were for job training.


During a Board of County Commissioners meeting, Gang of One Director Fran Cook gave an update telling BOCC members that they did not assign a "kitchen project manager" until mid-year 2012 and that the delay in renovation had "befuddled" the program.  She also said only three kitchen programs were held on April 19, May 26, and June 2 for children who were "truly too young for a certification program... 14-16 years of age."  

Only 23 young children were involved in these cooking classes, where they learned to make fruit salads, fajitas, and cannoli.

Programs had been touted in advance to be held by Johnson & Wales University culinary school, but at the BOCC meeting, Cook explained they were held by "JCSU chefs” (Johnson C. Smith University). Money was paid merely to individuals at a rate of $56/hour, indicating they were acting as individuals, not as University representatives.  Either way, no job training was accomplished ever during the period of the grant.

June 30, 2011, The Charlotte Post reported that

Johnson and Wales University staff agreed to assist Gang of One and city engineers in redesigning the kitchens located in the Center in anticipation of the culinary program.  JWU is also assisting Gang of One in the creation of a standardized curriculum for clients and will implement the curriculum.  This program will operate as a Saturday Academy.

There’s nothing to identify if Johnson & Wales University, which specializes in Culinary Arts, actually participated in design of the kitchen.  And there was no Saturday Academy. 

See the full BOCC video from Program Director Cook here, beginning at 1:23:00 (also marked “12-0367 Update on Greenville Center”).


Commissioner Vilma Leake's asked an important question about how much it would cost to do actual job training in culinary arts at other area schools such as CPCC.  Director Cook completely sidestepped the question and simply answered they had paid $56/hour for the three sessions held.    

Since zero young people have received any job training in the culinary arts as a result of the culinary arts training grant, but approximately 85% of the money has been spent, it seems this may be a problem when time to reconcile the grant.  Monthly reports have been required to the state office during the entire period of the grant, up through the end of June, and at that time an annual report is due.  So far, nobody will supply any of these important accountability mechanisms.  The state office says any spending not in accordance with the grant will have to be returned.

George Dunlap commented to Cook and staff that "you did exactly what we expected you to do."  

Commissioner Jennifer Roberts' thanked them for "getting this done so quickly."


While there are arguments to be made for reopening a popular community center in a difficult crime area, the money assigned for that purpose should be used for that purpose.

Most people could come up with a less-expensive way to hold three cooking classes for 23 kids than spending 85% of $339,765 = $288,800 estimated expenditures.  That comes out to $12,556 per child.  That could buy a decent college education at many places, or at least a good start.  It could definitely go farther than fruit salad and cannoli.

Grants over a third of a million dollars should not be nearly used up before a program even begins, with no accountability for how they are spent.  It’s not a slush fund. 

Where did that money go?

Who received the first $255,457?

So far, none of these people will say for months:
Program Director Fran Cook, Titus Ivory, Commissioners Vilma Leake, Jennifer Roberts, Harold Cogdell, CMPD Major John Diggs, CMPD attorney Mark Newbold, County attorney Marvin Bethune, City Attorney Robert Hagemann.  

citynewswatch will keep you posted if there are any updates.  Or new recipes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why Are We Still Paying Tim Newman? Will DNC Scrutiny Finally Bring CRVA Accountability?

WFAE has done an interview with CRVA CEO Tom Murray on September 13th, 2012, discussing the outside firm hired to evaluate the economics of the DNC Convention.  With prior talk of public funding for a mammoth hotel downtown, the expected results we are paying for already seem suspect:

"Clearly there were people that felt they had to go too far to stay here (during the DNC)," says Murray.  "If we find that we'd love to do lots of more DNCs, than how would we be better at delivering a DNC-type convention? We might say we'd have more hotels closer to the center.   But we're not ready to say that yet."

Will he be "ready to say that" when the study he has commissioned to lend credibility is complete?  Is this just another consultant to prepare inflated numbers to justify more huge tax expenditures?  Call on City Council and Mayor Foxx to force the CRVA books open NOW.   The records belong to the public.  

See email addresses at the right of this column. 

Mr. Murray also didn't mention the prostitution and crack dealing alleged on the in-town hotels that press representatives highlighted at the National Review.  Chief Monroe and Mayor Foxx may want to focus on that first.



A recent set of requests to find out what money, why, and for how long the CRVA (Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority) will be paying Tim Newman went to City of Charlotte Attorney Hagemann, the CRVA Board, and the CRVA Board’s attorney (Cameron Furr), asking again for that public information.  No one yet seems to have legal concerns for refusing to answer.  Is it possible no larger media outlets have been asking?  Or have they been rebuffed as well and gotten tired of asking?

What about Mayor Foxx and City Council who have proclaimed their interest in a more transparent CRVA for many months?  Do they know already…

The CRVA has already been highlighted here in previous Citynewswatch posts and more recently in a series of Charlotte Observer stories about “overestimating” millions of dollars in profit impact the CRVA has claimed.  Check this article, which provides links to the whole series.  The Observer explained that 

The Charlotte Convention Center has cost taxpayers as much as $30 million annually for construction debt, operating losses and incentives worth of hundreds of thousands of dollars to win business. The promised payback from the investment hasn’t materialized.
In the past, the CRVA has inflated attendance by tens of thousands of people, which in turn led to claims of tens millions of dollars of economic impact. Much of that money likely never materialized.
In other instances, the CRVA added millions of dollars of visitor spending for no apparent reason, as was the case with the 2010 National Rifle Association Convention.  For that convention, the CRVA increased its estimate of spending by 600 percent.

Now we are paying an outside consulting company $25,000 to determine a better method and identify whether and how much was net by the DNC Convention.  So the full-force denial about Newman’s payments is really puzzling.  The Observer also quotes Mayor Foxx:

“We have pushed for change at the CRVA in a very public way,” Foxx said in a statement. “The new leadership team has had less than a year to get established, and I have confidence that we’ll see good results and better accountability from them. After the Convention, I will ask them to update us on their efforts to date.”

We’ll see if Mayor Foxx answers all the questions, including why former CEO Tim Newman, who left under a cloud of revelations about lavish and possibly reckless spending, is still receiving huge sums of money from tax-funded CRVA.  In the wake of conventioneers leaving town, we need to take accurate stock of the effects on life and economic impact at all levels. 

Despite promises that Charlotte’s taxpayers will not have a negative effect, it’s safe to say that the real impact on City and County staff, budget, and businesses has been great and must be counted on the balance sheet.  Mayor Foxx also swore Charlotte tax payers would not be on the hook for any leftover DNC bills, no matter what fundraising goals were met or missed.  With word out now (via Bloomberg news) they missed by $15 million, people are nervous about managing and reporting the finances.


The latest request letter concerning just Newman’s payment information reiterates some points made in earlier letters, and there has been no response since the CRVA received this:
The Resolution shown below, sent to you again, establishes the CRVA and shows:
"This First Amendment to Interlocal Agreement, made July_' 2009 by and between the CITY OF CHARLOTTE, a municipal corporation organized under the laws of the State of North Carolina (the "City"), and the CHARLOTTE REGIONAL VISITORS AUTHORITY, a unit of local government and political subdivision of the City of Charlotte (the "CRVA")."  **(SEE FULL RESOLUTION AT THE END OF THIS POST)

Mr. Hagemann's statement that "the CRVA is a legal entity separate and distinct from the City of Charlotte" is not quite correct and the "clear legal facts" are that the CRVA is a municipal corporation, making the records and terms I have asked for public.  Please release the records immediately.  Your continued efforts to hide this information are not acceptable and cause a great deal of increased concern regarding the spending of public money.

Robert Hagemann’s terse reply on August 28th says he believes the CRVA is not an entity which is part of the City of Charlotte:
Although I previously provided you the following response, I am resending it for the benefit of the members of the CRVA board who you have copied:
I am going to repeat what I previously advised – the CRVA is a legal entity separate and distinct from the City of Charlotte and I am not its legal advisor.  Your repeated assertions to the contrary do not change these clear legal facts.  And I do not intend to debate the matter.
Robert E. Hagemann

Mr. Hagemann does not assert the records are not public—only that he says he does not have them.  It seems obvious he could get them.  When consulted, is it his responsibility?

Also, Mr. Hagemann seems to be stating he will not involve himself in anything having to do with the CRVA, based on his argument.  But isn’t that part of his job responsibility to be chief legal adviser for matters pertaining to City business?  It would be good to hear Mayor Foxx’s position and the rest of City Council’s position on this.


After asking for all the pay, settlement, retirement, or other salary or benefit information for some time, the CRVA responded with this:

On Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 1:40 PM, Cameron Furr <> wrote
Mr. Newman began working for the CRVA on November 29, 2004 as the Chief Executive Officer.  He served in that position until December 14, 2011, when he became Chief Marketing Officer.  Mr. Newman resigned on February 24, 2012.  There was no "dismissal, suspension or demotion for disciplinary reasons taken by the municipality" and therefore there is no "written notice of the final decision of the municipality setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal." 

As noted above, Mr. Newman was employed as CEO.  He became Chief Marketing Officer, a position which reported to the CEO.  He then resigned.  There was no promotion for which we can provide a date and general description of the reasons for the promotion.

"Current Salary,"  "For purposes of this subsection, the term 'salary' includes pay, benefits, incentives, bonuses, and deferred and all other forms of compensation paid by the employing entity."  We have provided you with amounts paid to Mr. Newman from March 16, 2012 through July 6, 2012 (see below).  If there is another period during which Mr. Newman was paid by the CRVA for which we could provide that information, we will gladly provide it.
As noted above, Mr. Newman resigned his position with the CRVA on February 24, 2012.  He is no longer an employee of the CRVA.

Pay Date          Pay                  Car Allowance   Total Payment
07/06/2012      $9,461.54                                 $  9,461.54
06/22/2012      $9,461.54         $694.58            $10,156.12
06/08/2012      $9,461.54                                 $  9,461.54
05/25/2012      $9,461.54         $694.58            $10,156.12
5/11/2012        $9,461.54                                 $9,461.54
4/27/2012        $9,461.54         $694.58            $10,156.12
4/13/2012        $9,461.54                                 $9,461.54
3/30/2012        $9,461.54         $694.58            $10,156.12
3/16/2012        $9,461.54                                 $9,461.54

Again, since the CRVA did not release the full information requested, so:
If you maintain there was no settlement for Mr. Newman, then is he still an employee?  Or would you define the amount of money he is being paid as some sort of other payment or benefit?  That must be defined.  Is he still an employee?  Is he a consultant?  Is this a gift?  Is this money being paid out of regular salary budget?  This is public information.

When will these payments stop?  Is he under contract so that they will stop, or do you plan to pay him indefinitely?  If you don't define these payments as part of a "settlement," do you define them as part of a "contract?"  If so, please provide that contract which would be public record. He is either salaried and a current employee, contracted (in which you must provide the contract), received some sort of settlement (or if you wish to title it differently, such as separation agreement) to leave, or is being paid as a gift of some sort.
Is Mr. Newman currently employed or contracted by the CRVA?  Is he performing any work for you?

Thanks for clearing this up and providing all the information required by law without further delay.

On Fri, Aug 17, responding to Cameron Furr’s email, another request was sent:

Dear Mr. Furr,
I assume you are "unable to understand anything in this email that is different from ... prior emails" because the law has not changed.  My request has not changed.  I did highlight your own statements back to me, hoping you that would help you understand, as you and members of your organization had indicated your difficulty understanding the law and struggle to find information.  However, I believe you have had ample time to discover the very issues you cited back to me and the basic information about contracts and settlements which are also included.  

All issues of pay, benefits, incentives, bonuses, and deferred and all other forms of compensation paid by the employing entity are salary and must be disclosed.  Also, any contracts must be disclosed as public documents.  Also, any settlements must be disclosed as public documents.  So, no matter what the source of the reason for the payment, you must disclose.  Please provide the information I have asked for.

Aug 21, 2012  Cameron Furr <> wrote:

I continue to attempt to understand what information or document you might be requesting that falls under a North Carolina statute which allows or requires disclosure.  While you have not asked for this specifically, following are the amounts paid to Mr. Newman since July 6th, the date of the last payment we reported to you.  These amounts are disclosed pursuant to Section 160A-168(b)(7) of the North Carolina General Statutes.  Other than the following, the CRVA does not have any other information which falls within your request, as we can understand it, and which is disclosable under the North Carolina General Statutes.  Thank you. 

Pay date                                Pay    

07/20/2012                         $9,461.54 plus car allowance $694.58                
08/03/2012                         $9,461.54
08/17/2012                         $9,461.54

Mr. Furr gives no rebuttal to what seems to be a misstated personnel exclusion—where there is no specific reason he feels the terms of payments and car allowances would be permitted to be held as confidential when the law clearly allows for release of that information. 

Mr. Furr even points out himself that “the public information of ‘salary’ defined includes pay, benefits, incentives, bonuses, and deferred and all other forms of compensation paid by the employing entity."  Also, see North Carolina § 132‑1.3. Settlements made by or on behalf of public agencies, public officials, or public employees; public records (a) Public records, as defined in G.S. 132‑1, shall include all settlement documents in any suit, administrative proceeding or arbitration…   But his email on August 24th states:
I have tried to explain to you the personnel records exceptions to North Carolina public records laws and how that limits the disclosure of documents.  We have provided you with "salary" paid to Mr. Newman to date as required by law. 

This led to yet another clarification to attorney Furr:
The money you are paying to Mr. Newman falls into a category which you must disclose, including if it is salary, a benefit package, incentive package, bonus package, deferred compensation package, contract payment, settlement payment, or other type of compensation.  The TERMS of those agreements are PUBLIC INFORMATION, including how much the payments are and when they will stop (if ever).

So far, then, CRVA has confirmed at least $117,011 in some kind of payments and car allowances to former CEO Tim Newman.  If he has continued on schedule, that number would be $136,629.  That’s not bad money for ten or twelve weeks of not working somewhere.

Citynewswatch will update you when editorial staff receives word that the CRVA or City of Charlotte replies.  Or, ask them yourself:


Here is a portion of Chapter 132, the Public Records Law Chapter of North Carolina General Statutes.  Read the entire chapter and other statutes at www.ncleg.netAlso check out N.C. Sess. Laws c. 169 (HB 961)(the Act) enacted by the General Assembly July 10, 2010, which broadened and defined release of information concerning public employee records and information.

Chapter 132.
Public Records.
§ 132‑1. "Public records" defined.
(a) "Public record" or "public records" shall mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data‑processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisionsAgency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions shall mean and include every public office, public officer or official (State or local, elected or appointed), institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority or other unit of government of the State or of any county, unit, special district or other political subdivision of government.
(b) The public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people.

§ 132‑1.3. Settlements made by or on behalf of public agencies, public officials, or public employees; public records.
(a) Public records, as defined in G.S. 132‑1, shall include all settlement documents in any suit, administrative proceeding or arbitration instituted against any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions, as defined in G.S. 132‑1, in connection with or arising out of such agency's official actions, duties or responsibilities, except in an action for medical malpractice against a hospital facility. No agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions, nor any counsel, insurance company or other representative acting on behalf of such agency, shall approve, accept or enter into any settlement of any such suit, arbitration or proceeding if the settlement provides that its terms and conditions shall be confidential, except in an action for medical malpractice against a hospital facility. No settlement document sealed under subsection (b) of this section shall be open for public inspection.
(b) No judge, administrative judge or administrative hearing officer of this State, nor any board or commission, nor any arbitrator appointed pursuant to the laws of North Carolina, shall order or permit the sealing of any settlement document in any proceeding described herein except on the basis of a written order concluding that (1) the presumption of openness is overcome by an overriding interest and (2) that such overriding interest cannot be protected by any measure short of sealing the settlement. Such order shall articulate the overriding interest and shall include findings of fact that are sufficiently specific to permit a reviewing court to determine whether the order was proper.
(c) Except for confidential communications as provided in G.S. 132‑1.1, the term "settlement documents," as used herein, shall include all documents which reflect, or which are made or utilized in connection with, the terms and conditions upon which any proceedings described in this section are compromised, settled, terminated or dismissed, including but not limited to correspondence, settlement agreements, consent orders, checks, and bank drafts. (1989, c. 326.)

The following resolution regarding the formation of the CRVA, which may be key, is even provided to the Board and attorneys:

 July 27, 2009
Resolution Book 42, Page 42

First Amendment to Interlocal Agreement
This First Amendment to Interlocal Agreement, made July_' 2009 by and between the CITY OF CHARLOTTE, a municipal corporation organized under the laws of the State of North Carolina (the "City"), and the CHARLOTTE REGIONAL VISITORS AUTHORITY, a unit of local government and political subdivision of the City of Charlotte (the "CRVA").
WHEREAS, the parties hereto are authorized pursuant to Article 20 of Chapter 160A of the North Carolina General Statutes to enter into contracts or agreements with each other in order to provide for the joint exercise or the contractual exercise by one for the other of any power, function, public enterprise, right, privilege, or immunity of local government; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to, inter alia, G.S. 160A-489 the City is authorized to establish and support public auditoriums, coliseums, convention centers; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 5, Article II of the City Charter (Session Law 200-26), the Authority is vested with the authority to control, manage, and operate City-owned auditoriums, coliseums, and convention centers; and
WHEREAS, on January 13, 2003 the City and the CRYA signed an Interlocal
Agreement to confer upon the CRVA the powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities of the City for purposes of the management and operation of City-owned auditoriums, coliseums, and convention centers in order to facilitate the more economical operation of the same and to
better serve the public; and WHEREAS, pursuant to Session Law 2005-68, the CRVA was vested with the additional authority to control, manage, and operate the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum; and
WHEREAS, the City desires to confer upon the CRYA the powers, functions rights, privileges, and immunities of the City for purposes of the management and operation of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum in order to facilitate the more economical operation of the same and to better serve the public.
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the premises and the fulfillment of the terms of this Agreement, the parties hereto agree that the Interlocal Agreement between the City and the CRVA dated January 13, 2003 is amended to read as follows:
I. In addition to the powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities directly provided to the CRYA by law, in fil1filling its responsibility to control, manage, and operate City-owned auditoriums, coliseums, convention centers and the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum, the CRVA shall have in addition thereto, and not in substitution thereof, all of the powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities of the City.

July 27, 2009
Resolution Book 42, Page 43
2. The CRVA may exercise or act upon the powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities conferred on it pursuant to paragraph I of this Agreement either unilaterally or jointly with the City.
3. This Agreement shall continue in perpetuity unless and until it is terminated by operation of law, by mutual consent of the parties, or unilaterally by either party, with or without cause, upon six (6) months written notice to the other party. The parties may amend this Agreement by mutual consent.
4. If the parties jointly exercise or act upon the powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities conferred pursuant to paragraph I of this Agreement, the manner of appointing any personnel necessary to the execution of the undertaking and the method of financing the undertaking, including the apportionment of costs and revenues, shall be set forth in the Instrument that constitutes the joint exercise. If the CRVA unilaterally exercises or acts upon the powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities conferred upon it pursuant to paragraph I of this agreement, the CRYA shall be responsible for appointing any personnel necessary to the execution of the undertaking and for the financing of the undertaking.
5. Ownership and title of any coliseums, auditoriums, convention center, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum real property that might be the subject of the CRYA's exercise or actions upon the powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities conferred upon it pursuant to paragraph I shall remain vested solely in the City, and under no circumstances shall the CRVA have the power or authority to unilaterally convey an ownership interest in such properties.
Executed as of the day and year first above stated by authority duly granted by the government boards of the parties hereto.
Curt Walton, City Manager
Tim Newman, Chief Executive Officer

July 27, 2009
Resolution Book 42, Page 44
I, Stephanie C. Kelly, City Clerk of the City of Charlotte, North Carolina, DO HEREBY CERTIFY that the foregoing is a true and exact copy of Resolution adopted by the City Council of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, in regular session convened on the 27th day July, 2009, the reference having been made in Minute Book 128, and recorded in full in Resolution Book 42, Pages (41-44).
WITNESS my hand and the corporate seal of the Ci~~~~1I'

Tuesday, September 11, 2012



Many photos and stories will be seen and told today of survivors and heroes out of New York.  Some in each category were first responders.  Others were not.  Those who wear a uniform are trained and know they may be subject to any kind of danger at any time.  They may be heroes on any day.  The magnitude of 9/11 and what individuals overcame to go in was beyond their everyday hero status.  No one could have prepared them to do what they did. They went in anyway.

Others were flying over a field in Pennsylvania and figured out what was going to happen with their plane.  They tried to save themselves and also the ultimate targets of the terrorists who had hijacked their plane. 

They were ordinary Americans who found their inner strength, joined together in a flash, and took unbelievably brave action that likely saved many other lives, had that plane continued all the way to Washington instead of going down in a field.

We lost many heroes at the Pentagon that day as well, and many bravely ran in to save fellow workers and others after a third plane was guided directly into this symbol of our national security.  Often there is little mention of the Pentagon or Pennsylvania losses in the press alongside the New York stories.

We are free.  When united, we can rise.


Every thought of the 9/11 attacks against our country and those heroes that rose up brings to mind the thousands of men and women serving overseas to protect us.  It brings to mind the need for clarity from both parties for a plan on bringing them out safely.  It recalls thousands who have died in uniform.  Tens of thousands who have returned gravely, irreparably injured for life.  We owe them health care—physical and mental—for life as well.  We also owe them all our gratitude. 

We are free.  We owe our liberty to those before us and those willing to defend it.


Whatever plan may keep our troops abroad and engaged, Americans deserve to hear about it from both parties.  We deserve to hear from not just presidential candidates, but from all lower offices as well.  Congress and the Senate are the ones who vote through plans and funding, from sending ‘em over, to paying for equipment, to funding housing and health care on return. 

They are making decisions about intelligence plans and funding, diplomatic plans and funding, and (one hopes) long-term economic strategy.

We should move on from politicians that want to talk about honoring 9/11 but who don’t talk about the wars we are conducting because they are unpopular topics with most voters.

Watching both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, it was gravely disappointing to hear almost nothing about national security issues.  Not shocking, just disappointing.  Republicans spent much of their time trying to prove Romney was a more fun, feeling guy than we might think he is.  Democrats spent much of their time trying to prove Obama is popular with the Hollywood crowd.  It’s a tough call which is worse.  Neither thing matters in a president. 

We need a skilled, competent president that can organize the government and its finances to run efficiently, from intelligence agencies to economic development to education to health.  These are issues a responsible press would be covering more of—with less emphasis on what barbeque sauce is favorite or who is better to play golf with.

If you want to honor those who fell on 9/11, require discussion and real answers from all of our politicians, from the presidential candidates down to the smallest local office.  Call for local media to cover those stories, in an unbiased way, so you can get the information you need.  Go to meetings and town halls. 

Educate yourself and then vote. 
It is a privilege to live in this country and be free, but duty comes with privilege.

We are free.  We won’t forget.  We will rise.